It was August 9th 2013 and as I sat with Ty smoking what would be my last cigarette ever, I looked at him and said “So, there is a possibility that I may be pregnant…” My period was 3 days late and I’m NEVER late. (In fact, I almost wanted to change the date of our wedding because I knew I would be on my period…and sure enough I was.) So, I put my smoke out and drove to CVS and purchased a pregnancy test. As soon as I got home, I ran to the bathroom and peed on the stick. The little cross appeared in the window indicating that it was positive. I was pregnant. Holy crap!! Ty, of course, was outside the door the entire time saying “let me in!! let me in!! what does it say?!?” . I opened the door and we looked at the test together, trying to make sure that what we were seeing was real. It was real!!
That Monday I called and scheduled an appointment with my family doctor to get blood work just to confirm what we already knew to be true. That was the one and only time I saw a doctor my entire pregnancy. I was already on my way to learning how to trust the natural process of my body.
I knew from the beginning that I did not want to give birth in a hospital. I didn’t want to even be in the near vicinity of a hospital! The thought of an epidural or cesarean scared me so much more than the thought of giving birth naturally! A needle in my spine?! No thank you! Potential to be paralyzed the rest of my life?! Heck no!! At this point that was all I really knew of birth. I had never really looked into the process. Of course my husband, being who he is, began to research everything possible about birth. I am so thankful that I married someone so thorough and dedicated to knowing the truth!! It was through this research that we decided that a home birth was 100% what we wanted. In fact, looking back on how I have pictured myself giving birth, it was always at home. We decided to have the birth at Ty’s parents’ house up in the Mother-In-Law sweet. Our apartment was WAY too cramped and I felt claustrophobic as it was even without being in labor. I knew I would need space. I wanted to be free to move around if I wanted to.
Telling the family that we had decided to have a home birth was….what we expected. Anyone who has had a home birth can relate to this, I’m sure. People would look at me like I was crazy. “You’re not getting an ultra-sound?! What if there are birth defects?!” they would ask. My favorite look I would get from people, usually women who have had children in the hospital setting, was the “You only think you’re doing it natural, but just wait until you feel the pain, you will be screaming for that epidural!” Well, I made it my mission to show them all how normal birth is done. How my body was created to grow and birth a child. I knew I was a part of nature and I couldn’t understand why that made me seem like a looney everyone!
I contacted a couple different midwife facilities here in town and decided to make an appointment with CHOICE (Center for Humane Options In Childbirth Experiences). This is when we first met Tanya and Amy, our midwives. At this point I began to realize that my birth experience was my CHOICE! They really opened my eyes to the fact that my birth experience could be everything I wanted it to be, not what everyone around me kept saying it was going to be. I have never heard the response to a question “what do you want to do?” or “what do you think?” so many times than when we had our monthly meetings with them! They really knew how to give us information without any motive to sway us one way or another, and that was so refreshing. The ball really was in our court! The health and well-being of our baby was already in my hands, and I was going to do everything in my power to grow the healthiest, strongest, most beautiful baby there ever was!!!
First things first…DIET!!!! This, I believe, was the single most important factor in growing a strong, healthy baby. I immediately went as organic as possible. We decided to follow the Nourishing Traditions diet, which we had already loosely been doing, but now we were getting serious about it. Traditional food, lots of good fats, meat such as grass fed beef, pastured chicken and eggs, raw milk cheese, yoghurt, sprouted grains and homemade bone broth are all staples. We wrote out a list of everything I should be eating on a daily basis and hung it on the wall in the kitchen:
1 Qt Whole Milk
2 Cups Greens
½ Cup Soaked Grains
2 Whole Eggs (at least!)
2 Egg Yolks
1 Pint Bone Broth
1 Cup Yogurt
¼ Cup Lacto-Fermented Food (kim chi, sour kraut)
1 Orange with the white on
1 Tbsp Molasses
1 oz Cheese
2 cups Pregnancy Tea
1 Gallon Water (at Least!!)
3-4 Celery stalks
Sea Salt to taste
This is not including the 80-100 grams of protein that I was supposed to eat on a daily basis!!! Did I succeed in eating every single thing on the list every single day, heck no…..but I did a pretty good job and I really tried!! My stomach is only so big and it was only getting more and more cramped as baby grew! Some additional things I was also taking daily: ¾ tsp fermented cod liver oil, 2 tbsp coconut oil and prenatal vitamins.
Now it was time to think about labor and natural pain management. There were several different methods that I looked into such as The Bradley Method & Lamaze but I decided to give Hypnobirthing a go of it. I’m not going to lie, I was skeptical of self-hypnosis but once we met with Linsey, our instructor, she explained that hypnosis is not like you see in the movies. What it should be called is self-relaxation and I felt more comfortable calling it that. Linsey stressed to us at each of our 5 meetings how important practicing the exercises at home was to being successful. I can’t say I practiced the exercises but I did listen to my rainbow relaxation CD pretty much every day during nap time or at bedtime and it really helped me visualize my birth and my baby.
I decided I wanted to rent a birthing tub and try for a water birth. They were so beautiful and peaceful when I watched videos of women birthing in the water and that was exactly what I wanted. I also had heard many testimonies from other home birth moms and the midwives that the warm water of the tub was a great technique used for relaxation and pain management.
Around 7 months, I began looking up birth art and birth affirmations online. I believe this helped me more than any class I could have taken. I would sit and reflect on the words in the picture several times per day. Things like “Your body was made to birth” and “Your body opens and you breathe your baby down”. I printed the pictures from the computer and posted them all around my birth room for easy viewing access during labor.
My EDD was April 12th 2014 but the midwives had told me that many first time moms go about one week past their due date. Well, on April 6th I lost my mucous plug! I wasn’t ready! I still had two more weeks! I shot a text message to Amy and Tanya and they responded by telling me to get as much rest and sleep as I could. As I lay in bed the next day and a half, I just kept imaging myself in a calm and peaceful labor. My mantra was “You were made to do this!” and I repeated it over and over in my mind. My sleep the night of the 7th was very restless. I knew it was coming. I could feel it. I was afraid of over reacting so I contemplated whether or not to ask my husband to stay home from school. Could I really tell that I was going to be delivering my baby the next day or was it all in my head?! He said he had a quiz to take in the morning but that he would come home right after. He walked out the door at 7:00am and within 15 minutes I was on the phone with him telling him to turn around because my contractions had begun!!
My contractions were already very close together, about one to two minutes apart. They weren’t very strong so we took our time getting our things packed to bring over to the house. We were both so silent while we gathered our things. I was trying to stay calm while the realization that this was actually happening was setting in. We drove to his parents’ house and got there about 9:00am. Ty filled up the birthing tub and put some tranquil music on while I tried to sleep in bed. I did get some decent rest, waking to breathe through the contractions that were getting a bit stronger, still close together but I knew I still had a while to go. I waited a few hours and decided to try getting in the water. It was like heaven in a tub! The warm water was so wonderful and it made the contractions so bearable! I decided I wanted one of the midwives to come and check to see how I was doing. This was my first time, after all. Amy came over and checked me- I was about 4 cm dilated. That was around 4:00 in the afternoon. I told myself I was not going to get discouraged or negative about how much longer I could potentially have. I focused on my breathing and my mantra… I was made for this! Nature knew what to do, I just had to let it happen. I decided I wanted Amy to stay even though I wasn’t very far along. I just felt more comfortable with her there so she went and got some food and came back for a fun night of “labor sitting”, as they call it.
The hypnobirthing method teaches that you don’t have to push your baby out. This was in the back of my mind through my whole labor. Was I going to push or was I going to “breathe my baby down”? As my labor progressed, I had a hard time staying in the tub because I would get so hot with each contraction. I eventually got out of the tub and into the shower. This is when I really realized how wonderful my husband was as a labor companion. He was by my side pretty much the entire time. The midwives had to force him to go eat some food. All those pictures and sayings I posted on the walls came in handy for him instead of me! He was reading them to me, almost chanting them at times. I couldn’t have done it as peacefully and confidently without him.
Tanya arrived around midnight (I think?). I didn’t even see her come in because I was in “Labor Land”. It’s a wonderful place where you are so deep within yourself and focused on breathing that you are only mildly aware of what is going on outside yourself. I could feel that I was getting close. I could feel my body opening to let my baby out. An overwhelming urge to push came over me. I kept asking when I could start pushing and eventually, at 2:15am I got on the birth stool and started to push. My water still had not broken at this point (thank you oranges with the white on them!) and Amy could see it bulging. She prepared herself to get the splatter! After about 2 or 3 pushes my water broke with a loud pop! Oh the relief! After pushing for about 30 minutes on the stool, Tanya and Amy thought it would be good to move to the bed. I was so tired at this point, I literally felt like I was in another world outside of my body. I began to push, trying to hold my legs back but my arms just couldn’t do it anymore. They held my legs back for me. Ty was right by my side, watching our baby’s head start to emerge. That moment is a moment no mother will ever forget. It was such a shocking feeling but I just kept telling myself that the only way out was OUT! I almost lost it…I was shaking and I could feel myself losing control. Tanya quickly picked up on this, got my attention and said “Liz, you with me?” and I snapped out of it and pushed with the next contraction. That was just a small part of the awesomeness of a midwife! Only a few more pushes and he was out. It was 3:14am. Instant relief. Instant joy. The previous 20 hours of labor was all worth the awesomeness of holding my baby. The moment that our baby was laid upon my chest was such a moment of victory and joy. I did it. We did it! Of course the first thing I did was check between the legs. I looked at Ty and said “It’s a boy!” Emerson’s sweet cries wailed through the house, letting all the waiting friends and family know he had arrived. Victory was ours! Everything went exactly as I had envisioned it, peaceful and natural. He was 8lbs 12oz and 21in long with a full head of hair. Now on to the hard part- bringing up baby!